Zoë Foster Blake on Mascara, Podcasts, and Taking Go-To Skincare Global
Smart, hilarious, and absolutely brimming with ace beauty recommendations, Zoë Foster Blake is the real deal. She's kind, genuine, and knows her shit when it comes to the beauty business (and the writing, app-designing, and television show-producing business, but there's only so much I could fit into our interview slot). Not only is she at the helm of her skincare brand, Go-To, but she's about to take her adorable family to the States as the brand launches into Sephora U.S. Major.
A few weeks ago, Foster Blake was in Sydney and I was lucky enough to snag 20 minutes with her. We drank lattes, ate fairy bread, but most importantly, we talked about creative pursuits, skincare ingredients to avoid, and why tubular mascara is the best invention since the wheel. Be prepared to girl crush, because the truth is, it's Zoë's world, and we're just living in it. Keep scrolling for the complete interview.
Having been in the beauty industry for such a long time, what are your thoughts on where we’re at right now?
The beauty industry has definitely been broken down in recent years. I think a lot of brands have gone, “You know what? That’s not how consumers think anymore.” I think what [Jane Magazine] did, and what I love doing, is subverting beauty. Just going, “Look, it’s not fucking rocket science." Most of beauty is problem-related. Like, when we’re happy and our skin is good, we’re like, “Let’s play with colour and stuff." But if we’re not, we’re like, “What the fuck can I use right now that will fix this?!”
So, talk to me about Go-To. It’s about to launch in Sephora in the U.S.?
We are! Sephora has asked us to join as a part of its online and in-store offering—we’ve been working on it actually for quite a while now. I think the email came through when my baby was five days old. So I was like, ahhh! But my manager was like, “I know you said not to email, but I think this is one that you’re going to want to read.” But getting ready for the States has been a big thing. We have had to change all our packaging and so on for regulation reasons, but it’s so exciting to be online first. And then we’re in-store in August. I’m relocating to the States with my family for three months while we launch. It’s going to be crazy.
How are you processing it all?
It’s surreal, because to me Sephora is such a big deal. Every time when I would travel to America when I was younger, the first thing I would do is hit up Sephora. I love the store in Soho, New York. I think they’re really good at the beauty experience; they’re the masters. And no matter where you are in the world, there’s a Sephora. It’s great.
How incredible for you. Congratulations!
It is! It’s a lovely validation of the brand, and the store is doing a real push towards clean beauty, so we fit in to that, which is nice. I like to think that Go-To’s marketing is fun as well. We’re a bit different to a lot of the brands.
How do you think being an ex beauty-editor has helped Go-To succeed?
Well, firstly, I wanted a brand that worked, but it also had to cut through the noise. I wanted to very quickly sum up that we’re a foolproof, simple, reliable skincare brand that’s not going to make you feel bad because you don’t know how to use it. I also didn’t want people spending money on shit they don’t need.
Are there any exciting Go‑To launches in the pipeline? I know there’s been talk of a sunscreen?
Yeah! For quite some time. It’s very, very tricky. I remember being told for years that it was the hardest product to manufacture, and not even just within beauty and cosmetics, but across the board. Because of the regulations and because it’s a carcinogen! Like, you’re also stopping people from getting cancer. So there’s a lot to it, more than just how it feels and looks under makeup. And also, anything we do at Go-To is super clean, and so we can’t use all those things that other sunscreens can to make it feel nice when it’s chockers with zinc. So it’s been a very interesting challenge for me, but I believe that we’re very close. And I believe that it will be all worth it, because I’m such a champion of sunscreen, and have been for so long. It felt weird to have my own skincare line and not have a sunscreen.
What are some ingredients that you just absolutely will not put into your products?
Well, there’s actually a lot. We have what we call our Keep Clean and Worry Free mantra, so we needed a term that encapsulated what we do. I use a broad range of products as well as Go-To. I’m not a purist. But for me, it was really important to make sure that whatever I was asking women and men to put on their faces, had to be pure. Super pure and bulletproof, because, in the direct-to-consumer model, you’re posting things out to person that hasn’t had a chance to try it first. And we just didn’t want that headache of everyone getting irritations. So, it was born of that very utilitarian need to go, “This is a product that is clean and won’t inflame your skin." What we didn’t realise, was that by taking all the synthetics out, we made a really amazing product that actually goes the other way and has been shown to heal so many skin issues.
What are some of the ingredients you removed?
Silicone. When you take silicones out of products, everything changes. They’re literally everywhere, and they’re bad. Even now, in the production of the SPF, I went down the path of going, “Are they that bad?” because I was like, I bloody need this sunscreen! Help me out! I did some research, and I'm so glad I did, because they’re quite simply, shit. If you’ve got acne, you cannot be using silicones. If you’ve got redness, rosacea, or inflammation, you cannot be using silicones. So having a black ban on most synthetics helps us a lot. Others include things like SLS, PEGs, parabens, petroleum’s—those nasties. And we just try and keep the ingredients readable and understandable—some things that sound scary to our ears are basically just vitamin E. But that have these long code names for the scientific community. What amazes me is that people complain about their skin, and say, “But I’m using sensitive skincare products?” I’m like, that’s just a marketing term! It’s not really helping!
So true. I think women—and men—are becoming a lot more educated when it comes to skincare. There’s so many blogs and Instagrams that break down every ingredient in a product. Do you think this is a good thing?
Yeah, mostly. Like, there are people who go so far that way, that they scrutinise every little thing. It really impresses me! And we actually satisfy that criteria, but that’s not our angle. We’re not trying to be super earnest, but I think it’s a beautiful bonus to just go, “Oh yeah, by the way, it’s a really fun product that works but also, if you have any sort of complication or sensitivity you’re absolutely fine to use it.” Like, I use this on my newborn babies! All of it! No problems.
You’re flying overseas next week, tell me about your in-flight skincare routine. Is it crazy?
I find it so funny! It’s a whole hashtag masking thing now, and I look at some people, and they’re in a first class cabin using three masks and four oils. It looks wonderful, but I have a two small children, so unfortunately it’s nothing like that. Basically, I always get a spray tan before I leave to take the edge off, and I won’t feel so withered when I get there. It also complements my holiday theme dressing approach to life quite nicely. Basically, before and after I land, I’ll use the Go-To Swipey’s ($46), and the Go-To Sheet Mask ($9). It’s heaven! If I was bold, I’d wear it on the plane, but for now, I’ll leave it to the Instagrammers. During the flight, I’ll just use Face Hero ($45), and Very Useful Face Cream ($41). And sunscreen if it’s a day flight and I’m near the window.
You’re a mum, entrepreneur, and writer doing a bunch of things. Do you have a routine to streamline your life?
Well, that’s why I made Go-To, because I wanted a very simple routine, ha! So, the first people that wake up in our house are very young, and noisy, around 5:30 to 7 a.m. Once Rudy wakes up, she wakes up Sonny and they start partying. Then we just do brekky and all of that with the kids, and for me, I’m very basic. I cleanse, I Face Hero, moisturiser, and apply sunscreen. And then I do makeup if I need more coverage, because I’ve got pigmentation. Um, and heaps of concealer.
What’s your favourite tinted moisturiser and concealer duo?
It’s still Nars ($66) at the moment, but I’m always on the hunt for a new one. I’ve never tried It Cosmetics, funnily enough! The Napoleon CC Cream ($59) is really lovely too. The Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer ($37), oh my god, so dewy and creamy. It never creases.
What about mascara, blush, that sort of thing? Do you have any favourites?
Well, I just took my lash extensions off after two years because I felt like with the fringe and the curls it was a bit much—I looked like a doll. I miss them a little bit, but I’m staying strong. I am a tubular mascara girl. Like, one hundred percent. There’s a funny little Aussie brand called Poni Cosmetics. Its White Knight Mascara ($30) is the bomb.
Did you use mascara with your lash extensions?
No! I don’t use mascara with lash extensions, or normal mascara ever really. I did once when Clinique launched Lash Power years ago, and I was about to go on a sleazy, hot holiday to Greece with my girlfriends. It was designed for humid climates. Think dancing, sweating, and swimming (hello, Greece). I’m a puddle, so I thought it might be the one that changed my mind. But I have come to the conclusion that with my face, mascara just drops down and smudges everywhere. So I am a tubular gal only now. I love the semi-permanency, and also, that when I get out of the shower, I don’t get residue! I’m clean as a whistle.
What about your brows?
Let’s talk business. You’ve got so many amazing projects always going all the time. Have you always been so entrepreneurial?
I think this is when I’m meant to go, “Oh, I had a lemonade stall." Ha ha, not really. Do you know what I used to do, though? I’d take my birthday money and go down the street and buy $20 worth of Snickers—all the sugary shit I wasn’t allowed to have. I’d come back into my bedroom and I’d make a shop, and then I’d write a letter to my family and all my friends going, “I’ve opened a shop! Come in and buy.” And then I’d price everything up. Can you tell I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t a lot to do? Ha!
You were a hustler from day dot!
And no one would buy it, because my brothers would be like, “I’m not buying a Mars Bar for two bucks!” And I’m like, but I brought it to you! I was Uber Eats-ing before it was a thing. That was a shitty idea, obviously. But I just think my main productivity stems from the fact that I get bored very quickly. And I love new ideas. And that moment of fruition when I can feel a good idea coming, or an idea for a book, or an idea for a marketing campaign for Go-To or a product, I get chills and shivers. It’s like it overtakes me and I need to do it and get it out. But then like, so much work comes afterward the idea, it’s always a shock! Implementing and execution and manufacturing! It’s like the fun is taken out of it! I’m kidding, but I’m always chasing the high of a new idea.
Do you ever have to force yourself to be creative, even when you’re not feeling that spark?
I do feel like, for example, if you’re working online for a website or whatever, there can be an expectation to generate a certain amount of content. That’s hard. I used to write a weekly column, but it started feeling like homework, so I quit. The level of fun and creativity that I would hope would be at my best is not always conducive to a timeline. So that’s why I blog so rarely, because I have the idea, and I marinate it and marinate it, and then one day I get the time to finally write it up! But it’s been in here for ages. So, I don’t work very well under external short-term deadlines. But I also don’t do any work until the last minute. And I read this theory on it… It’s not laziness or even procrastination—it’s really healthy. There’s a name for it, but I can’t think of it. It’s where you have the idea, and you know you have a month to do it, so you start processing it, and thinking about it, and mulling it over in your head, and then I’ll always do the work the day before. Not because I’ve only just thought of the job, but because it was settling in, and I was wrapping my mind around it. That’s what Hamish and I tell ourselves, anyway, because we both work in a similar way!
There must be a lot of creative juices flowing in your household! What are some of the books and podcasts you’ve loved this year?
Well, Seth Godin is my king. He’s brilliant. He’s pretty much all I need or care about at the moment. And it’s not because I’m at a pivot or anything, where I want to start a new business, I just love the way he cuts through, and he’s concise. And what he does is remind you to just be good at what you’re doing. I also love Kevin Kelly's idea of 1000 True Fans. So I don’t try and think about having X amount of followers, or fans, or whatever for Go-To. But instead just knowing that that core base have been with us from the start. They’re the ones you should talk to and work for. Make sure that they’re happy and you’re doing good work for them, and they'll respect you. That’s what you should think about.
Tim Ferriss is another, not necessarily for Tim himself, even though his Four Hour Work Week was what caused me to leave full-time work, and take the leap years ago. But because of the mindset he introduces me to. I love it. And Tribe of Mentors ($26) I can’t recommend enough.
Amazing. Do you have a favourite single book ever?
Such a tough question! You know what, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy ($16) is probably one of my favourite templates for comedy and humour. And also as a kid I read a book called Italian Folk Tales ($26), which is by Italo Calvino, he’s an Italian adult writer but he did this book where he basically redid all the old classic fairy tales. Things like Rumpelstiltskin, but he did it in such a savage and satirical way that I think it taught me how to take a format and subvert it at a really early stage. And I read that until it fell apart. I also used to read a lot of Goosebumps!
So did I!